WDSM: Queen of the Towers

Collected here are 1950s-era advertisements for WDSM-TV, the forerunner to KBJR-TV. The ads appeared in Broadcasting and Sponsor magazines and can be found in the Media History Digital Library.

WDSM-TV began broadcasting on March 1, 1954, as a CBS affiliate and the first VHF station in the Duluth. KDAL-TV signed on a few days later as an NBC affiliate. The stations switched network affiliations in 1955. Color broadcasts on WDSM started in November 1965.

WDSM was owned by Ridder Newspapers, which owned the Duluth Herald and Duluth News Tribune, along with the WDSM 710 AM radio station.

From Wikipedia:

Ridder merged with Knight Newspapers in 1974 to form Knight Ridder. However, the merged company was not allowed to keep the WDSM stations. It was grandfathered under Federal Communications Commission rules forbidding common ownership of newspapers and broadcasting outlets. The FCC considered the Knight-Ridder merger to be an ownership change, and as a result, the WDSM stations lost their grandfathered protection. The television station was spun off to RJR Communications, a locally based group, in the fall of that year. On December 6, the call letters were changed to the current KBJR-TV. Channel 6 is one of the few stations in the country whose call sign begins with “K” despite being licensed to a city east of the Mississippi River. However, its studios have long been located in Duluth.


Matthew James

about 1 year ago

I've heard many times that the "K" of KBJR is an bit of an exception and did a brief search on the internet to see what I could find about why. A site on early radio history provides some rather detailed information. It documents 28 exceptions to the K/W Mississippi River rule, many related to stations not changing letters after a eastward shift in the K/W dividing line that happened in 1923. The website just leaves out any examples from Minnesota or Louisiana, however, because apparently those two states haven't been particularly diligent about following the Mississippi River rule. 

The webpage author notes:

The source of the Mississippi River is in upper Minnesota, so using it as the K/W boundary leaves a gap in the northern part of the state. In 1987 the Federal Communications Commission noted that the current staff practice was to define the remainder of the boundary as "a line from the headwaters of the [Mississippi] to a point [at the Canadian border] just east of International Falls. This review generally omits stations in Louisiana and Minnesota, because the boundary has not been very strictly followed in those two states.
So it seems that KBJR is an exception, but an exception in one of the states that is full of exceptions.  

Matthew James

about 1 year ago

Just after posting the above comment, I realized that website is all about AM radio and perhaps television has different rules. I rather quickly found much more specific information about KBJR. In 1974, the station applied to the FCC for an exception to the K/W rule because a bunch of money had already been spent on the KBJR logo stuff and because Duluth/Superior is so close to the headwaters of the Mississippi that the station didn't think the K/W rule applied to it anyway. 

The FCC didn't have an opinion about either of those arguments, but noted that the Duluth/Superior market was already such a mess of K's and W's that it didn't really make any difference anymore what letter they used. The exception was granted on Nov. 13, 1974.

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